News

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Presidential election could be postponed over disagreement on voting method

A presidential election planned for this Friday could be postponed due to a dispute over how the bicameral vote should be held. A decision by the Chamber of Deputies procedural committee on Wednesday to back a public vote brings the lower house into conflict with the Senate, where the majority is in favour of a secret vote. Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka said if agreement is not reached during talks between representatives of both houses on Thursday then Friday’s joint session of Parliament could be suspended while a solution to the stalemate is sought. Mr Sobotka said he would not describe the situation as a constitutional crisis, but instability which required political negotiation.

A hastily arranged meeting of the governing coalition failed to make any headway over the issue on Wednesday. The coalition’s biggest party the Civic Democrats – who control the Senate – are in favour of a secret vote. But their partners the Greens and the Christian Democrats, along with the opposition Social Democrats and at least some Communist legislators, back a public vote.

The incumbent Václav Klaus is set to face Jan Švejnar in Friday’s vote, with Mr Klaus regarded by many pundits as the favourite. An opinion poll by the CVVM agency released on Wednesday suggests that both presidential candidates have equal public support of 42 percent. However, Mr Klaus may have more opponents than Mr Švejnar: 22 percent of respondents said they were decidedly against the incumbent, compared to 16 percent strongly opposed to the challenger.

Czechs could travel to US without visas this year, says Department of Homeland Security official

Czech citizens could be free to travel to the United States without a visa by the end of this year, Richard Barth of the US Department of Homeland Security said in Prague on Wednesday. Mr Barth said American and Czech officials were moving closer to an agreement on visa-free relations; he said the only thing now needed to allow the lifting of the visa requirement was the introduction of an electronic system of approval which would monitor visitors arriving in the USA. Czechs wishing to visit the US would be able to apply for approval via the internet before travelling. Mr Barth made the comments following meetings with Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

Ombudsman: Police took DNA tests unlawfully, DNA database itself has no legal basis

Czech police last year unlawfully took DNA samples from both persons remanded in custody and others who had been sentenced, the ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, said on Wednesday. Mr Motejl said the database into which the DNA samples were entered was itself not legally based. He said the police should destroy all DNA samples if asked to do so by prisoners who had been tested without their prior agreement. Mr Motejl said the database should be defined by law, not based on an internal police order as it is now. Police took 17,000 DNA samples in 2007.

Crimes of communism body examining repression of 1967 protest

The Office for the Investigation and Documentation of the Crimes of Communism is looking into the repression of a student demonstration in October 1967, Hospodařské noviny reported. Former police officers who quelled the protest and the military prosecutors who investigated it could face charges, the newspaper said. Several students were injured while others were barred from completing their studies. The crimes of communism office said it would decide on how to proceed in the next few days after it receives a file on the incident from the military archives.

Couple get nine years for horrific abuse of mentally handicapped girl

A woman and her partner have received nine-year jail terms for the rape of the former’s mentally handicapped eight-year-old daughter. Kateřina Vrchlavská and Bohuslav Sladovník were found guilty by a court in Tábor of tying the girl to a bed, drugging her with ether and then subjecting her to horrific sexual abuse. A video recording of the rape made by the couple was the main evidence against them in a closed court hearing.

Wife-swap show participants close to breaking law, says MP

Civic Democrat deputy Eva Dundáčková says the couples who take part in a TV wife-swap programme have come close to committing the crime of abandoning their children. The MP, a member of the Chamber of Deputies family committee, made the comment in a Czech Radio interview. Last week the committee wrote to TV Nova asking the station to drop the show “Výměna manželek”. However, the programme’s director said the children involved had given their consent, adding that it was filmed under the supervision of psychologists.

Some sausage stands to remain on Wenceslas Square but alcohol ban planned

Contrary to previous reports, some stands selling sausages and other food are to remain on Prague’s Wenceslas Square, a representative of the Prague 1 authority said on Wednesday. However, there will be a reduction in the number of fast food stands on the square and the selling of alcohol will be banned. It is not necessary to have two fernets and three vodkas with your klobasa, councillor Rudolf Blažek told reporters. Suggestions last year that all the food stands on Wenceslas Square would be removed met with a negative reaction.

Eliahu Inbal to become principal conductor of Czech Philharmonic

The renowned Israeli conductor Eliahu Inbal will take over as chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in autumn 2009, a spokesperson for the orchestra said on Wednesday. Mr Inbal follows Zdeněk Mácal, who stepped down abruptly last year but still conducts some concerts for the Czech Philharmonic. The Prague-based orchestra will not appoint an interim chief conductor. Eliahu Inbal has broad international experience; he is best known for his interpretations of late-Romantic works but is also a noted opera conductor and has helmed the premieres of a number of modern pieces.

Radiožurnál boss Tachecí fired

Barbora Tachecí has been fired as the director of Czech Radio’s biggest station, Radiožurnál. Ms Tachecí had come in for some criticism for changes introduced to the station at the beginning of this year; hundreds of listeners sent complaints to both Czech Radio and the council which oversees it. No figures are currently available regarding the number of listeners in the period since Ms Tachecí’s changes were implemented.

Weather

It should get slightly warmer over the next couple of days, with temperatures of up to 8 degrees Celsius. We can expect some rain and sunny spells.